One by one, the hospital staff members approached the monument just unveiled outside Peconic Bay Medical Center and placed a rock at its edge Monday evening. Each rock featured a personal drawing or message representing the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some featured a remembrance to a life lost. Others gave thanks to the health care heroes who rose to the occasion to treat so many patients who fell ill during a global pandemic.
Throughout this week — now one year since the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Suffolk County — rocks will be distributed throughout each unit at PBMC for more staff members to add to a growing garden of remembrance.
“This is a place for all of us to have collective remembrance,” said Tara Anglim, PBMC’s senior director of patient- and family-centered care. “And be proud of what we’ve done and to share in the grief of the people who we’ve lost and care for those we know have lost someone, too.”
Ms. Anglim unveiled the monument on the north side of the building near the new Corey Critical Care Pavilion during a COVID-19 Day of Remembrance Ceremony. The rocks, she said, will not only signify the loss of life, but the general loss felt by everyone over the past year.
“The loss of hugging people, being close to those we love, being able to go where we wanted to go, having our children play and be in school,” she said. “There’s so much loss that happened over this year and we’re right on the edge of change and hope.”
Lavender lights illuminated the building as part of the ceremony and will shine through the rest of the week. The larger monument featured an inscription that read: “It’s memory’s lovely garden that soothes the hurting heart — Author unknown.”
Amy Loeb, who was recently named PBMC’s executive director, recalled how the hospital and its staff was ready to confront the challenge when the world turned upside down one year ago.
“We were ready to take care of everyone’s someone that came in our door,” she said. “And how did we do that? It’s because we stood together. And this for me is a day of remembrance of the loved ones lost and indeed the lives lost across the world. But also this is a day of remembrance of how we stood together.”
Christine Kippley, PBMC’s chief nursing officer, recalled the first video she shared a year ago on Facebook’s Workplace for fellow staff members.
What she felt at that moment was fear. She worried whether they would have enough nurses and that there would be too many patients. She envisioned herself sitting in the intensive care unit as disaster surrounds her.
In that video, she asked her colleagues to come together and move past that fear.
“We are all that this community has,” she recalled saying, “and we have to do it and we will do it together.
“And that’s really what we did and we got through it.”
Ms. Anglim said she’ll never forget the darkest weeks when the community delivered an “outpouring of love,” whether it was children’s cards or drawings, drinks, desserts or meals. People donated money and schools donated personal protective equipment.
“It lifted us up when we thought we didn’t have anything else to give,” Ms. Anglim said. “We cared for our community and our community cared right back. We will never forget that.”
Jerome Foster Lewis, who works in security, sang “Amazing Grace,” followed up by a rousing round of applause from the crowd gathered outside.
“You are a star every single day that you welcome our patients, but you brought it to a whole other level,” Ms. Loeb said to Mr. Lewis after he sang.